MGWCC #832

crossword 4:37
meta 1:00 



hello, and welcome to episode #832 of matt gaffney’s weekly crossword contest, “Name Dropping”. for this week 2 puzzle, the instructions told us that we were looking for an American athlete who has won many medals at the Summer Olympics. what were the theme answers? five long across answers were all the full names of people (men, as it turned out):

  • {Beloved crooner} TONY BENNETT.
  • {U.S. president of the 19th century} JAMES MONROE. at this point, i was quite sure this was going to be one of those metas where this clue can work for an alternate answer, because otherwise there’s no reason to clue monroe so generically.
  • {Member of the Cars, part of whose name is often seen in crosswords} BENJAMIN ORR. RIC ocasek is the more commonly seen member of the cars in crosswords. as you might think, benjamin takes a distant backseat to NHL great bobby among clues for ORR, whereas ocasek is the leading RIC ahead of wrestler flair.
  • {“thirtysomething” actor} PETER HORTON. i really don’t know this actor, but ken OLIN was in thirtysomething and is in crosswords a lot.
  • {“The Big Lebowski” actor} JEFF BRIDGES. there are many famous actors from this film, including philip seymour hoffman, who played the big lebowski himself. (bridges played the other jeffrey lebowski, aka the dude.)

so how does the meta work? the title is a hint, as is even the byline—”Matt G.” rather than matt gaffney. we’re taking full names of famous people who also fit the clues and chopping them down to first name + last initial, like so:

  • {Liquefy, sometimes} MELT = MEL Torme, another beloved crooner.
  • {___ Prize (mathematics honor)} ABEL = ABE Lincoln, another 19th-century president.
  • {Tasty, in Tijuana} RICO = RIC Ocasek, the aforementioned member of the cars.
  • {Gambling game} KENO = KEN Olin, the aforementioned thirtysomething actor.
  • {“Ditto”} SAME = SAM Elliott, who played the mustachioed stranger in the big lebowski.

put those together and you get MARKS, and the mechanism can be applied one more time here for MARK SPITZ, whose seven-gold haul at the 1972 munich games was the record until michael phelps came along.

this was a fine meta. i wasn’t sure whether “name-dropping” was going to mean the name was going to be omitted entirely or literally going to read downward in the grid. it ended up being neither of those, though you could argue it was somewhere in the middle. overall, it was a very gentle week 2, but with may being a five-week month at MGWCC, there’s plenty of time to ramp up.

what’d you all think?

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10 Responses to MGWCC #832

  1. sharkicicles says:

    Actually, PSH played Brandt, the Big L’s assistant – David Huddleston played the Big L.

    (Sorry, one of my favorite movies of all time.)

    This one was one my favorite MGWCCs of late. Thanks for the write up!

  2. Matt Gaffney says:

    Thanks, joon — 302 correct entries this week, so actually on the low side for a Week 2 of 5 (I had guessed 397 and my tester had guessed 402).

    • David R says:

      I think the leap to looking for an alternative answer to the themed fill and also only using the first letter of the last name was what made this a bit more difficult then a typical Week 2. For me I kept on thinking of Ken Olin and Ric Ocasek as the right clues for that fill which led me to the meta answer. Elliott and Lincoln I would have never seen without finding the theme on those two.

  3. Bob says:

    Nuts. Late Monday night, put the meta off till late. I had the five names but thought that “dropping” suggested taking the last letter of each, yielding OOETL. Nope. Can’t believe I missed the classic first-letter mechanism.
    Also, I did notice a wee shout-out to Ada with 50D.

  4. John says:

    Because SPIT was one letter away from SPITZ, it was my long bomb on a meta I was nowhere close to getting. Doesn’t feel week 2-ish that we’re to look at MELT and think of the venerable Mr. Torme. I did tell a friend the ‘Matt G’. near the title had to be significant, but even with that, I couldn’t suss this meta. I kept looking for “dropping” in or immediately surrounding the themes themselves.

  5. Seth Cohen says:

    Wow, no chance. I actually had the idea that the theme clues were vague and probably clued other people, but couldn’t do anything with that. I’ve never heard of 4 of the 5 alternates. I even looked at other members of the Cars, but immediately dismissed that idea because no other name is “often” seen in crosswords. I’ve been doing a dozen puzzles a week for a decade and can’t remember a single time I’ve seen RIC, literally. But ORR shows up constantly.

    It’s a great meta, it just feels much harder unless you were familiar with other people who could fit those clues.

  6. Dusty Gunning says:

    I kept swinging back to Monroe/McEnroe and Horton/Ortolan (the second “dropping” term a derivative of the across…).
    An unusual word, like ortolan, is often part of the meta.
    Except this time…

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